On July 14, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that criminal defendants have a legitimate privacy interest in their booking photographs, thereby reversing and remanding a grant of summary judgment in favor of the Detroit Free Press’s request for the booking photographs of four police officers who had recently been indicted for bribery and drug conspiracy. In holding that the public disclosure of booking photographs may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, the majority overturned twenty years’ worth of Sixth Circuit precedent. The court properly acknowledged that booking photographs convey a portrait of guilt to the viewer, and that the Freedom of Information Act’s exemptions are meant to protect individuals who have not yet been convicted from having humiliating personal information freely disclosed to the public. This Comment argues in favor of the majority’s holding, which acknowledged that defendants have a privacy interest in their booking photographs and adopted a case-by-case approach to balancing that privacy interest against the public interest in releasing the photographs. The Sixth Circuit’s decision protects the personal identity of the accused in the age of the Internet, and allows defendants to truly maintain their presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Law Enforcement and Corrections
- Journal title
Boston College Journal of Law & Social Justice
E. Supp. 45
- Date submitted
6 September 2022